Sunday, April 25, 2010

Welcome to Portugal Part I

Such a long time has passed between my last post and now, I'll give a quick life update first and offer lame excuses as to why I haven't been posting.

In a nutshell, I'm in my second semester of a PhD program called Engineering and Public Policy through Carnegie Mellon University and Instituto Superior Tecnico-Lisbon. In January I moved to Lisbon, and in the interim I have worked to adjust to life in southern Europe and keep up with some demanding classes, which have left me with little energy or motivation for blogging.

But that will all change as of now. It is not so much that courses have gotten easier or there is less work to do, but that I am so full of interesting things to say about energy in Portugal that I am bursting at the seams to let it out. So here it goes...

Part I: What do you mean there's no heat?

This wasn't exactly what I said to my landlady upon arrival, because I had been warned by students who came here last year that this was generally the way things were in temperate Portugal. Most of the year it's no big deal, but for a few weeks in January the temperature in Lisbon flirts with freezing, usually settling in at 3-4 degrees C overnight. This made my first days after my arrival January 9th somewhat of a shock. My landlady introduced me to the wonders of the hot water bottle and the art of wearing layers indoors. I met other students from different parts of Europe and they, too, found the lack of indoor heating something to get used to. Even students from Eastern Europe, no strangers to cold, complained about the weather constantly those first weeks (the cold, but also the relentless rain - also a trademark of Lisbon in January). In talking to them we decided the difficult thing to get used to was the lack of temperature difference between inside and outside. They, like me, were used to entering warm buildings during winter. The Portuguese, to their credit, are not. Despite spending nights clinging to the hot water bottle I rather like the fact that the Portuguese can endure a few weeks of being chilly during the winter while often the first frost in October-November prompts homeowners in the states to crank up their thermostats to 65 F (I'm being generous here...usually its more like 72 F).

Well, this is part of the reason that Portugal's per capita energy consumption in 2006 was less than one third that of the United States' (downloads an xls file), and other reasons are forthcoming in subsequent parts of my newly christened "Welcome to Portugal" series. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to blogging! have fun in portugal.